One Piece, the popular pirate-themed shonen anime series, has lost its first place spot on MyAnimeList’s top airing anime list again. And oddly enough, the first place winner isn’t from Japan. In fact, depending on who you talk to, it isn’t even an anime series at all.
Mo Dao Zu Shi: Wanjie Pian, an animated adaptation of Chinese novelist MXTX’s series of the same name, has taken the first place slot on MyAnimeList for the site’s top running anime. The “Wanjie Pian” series premiered last August and serves as the third season for the TV show, which originally began in 2018.
Produced by Tencent Penguin Pictures and B.C May Pictures, Mo Dao Zu Shi isn’t from Japan. The series is a donghua, or a work of Chinese animation. Originally voiced in Mandarin and broadcasted on Tencent Video, Mo Dao Zu Shi explores a fantasy world named Xianxia amid the growing bonds between Wei Wu Xian and Lan Wang Ji, after the former creates the Mo Dao, or the “Demonic Path.” The series remains one of the most popular adaptations of MXTX’s work to date.
Mo Dao Zu Shi is part of a genre called danmei, which involves male characters falling in love with one another. Similar in approach to the popular Japanese “boys’ love” anime and manga genre, Mo Dao Zu Shi has a high number of female fans both in China and around the globe.
One Piece may be unseated for now, but the competition remains close: Mo Dao Zu Shi has an 8.60 score, while One Piece rests at 8.59. Granted, MXTX’s danmei novels are receiving their first official English translation in December, which could boost the donghua’s popularity on MyAnimeList.
As for whether Mo Dao Zu Shi is technically an “anime” or not, it depends on who you ask. It’s definitely not from Japan, but does that disqualify it from anime lists? Agree or disagree, it’s a novel situation for anime fans, one that hopefully encourages more English-speaking viewers to check out Chinese animation’s wide and varied history.